Decorating a home for a holiday open house
Although she loves classic style and neutral interiors, the hospitable owner of this Geneva home longed for vibrant seasonal scenes that turned the tide on traditional decorating. "She wanted something a bit different, something unexpected," says Country Sampler stylist Sally-Jo Enstad, who worked with fellow stylist Pam Hamilton to weave happy-holidays spirit from foyer to family room. "So, we turned up the glitz by making sure each of our cheerful displays sparkled."
The design duo began their bedazzling efforts in the entry hall, where they introduced brighter shades of conventional reds and greens in a holiday greeting display that steps up carpeted stairs. The energizing hues reappear on a tabletop tableau arranged nearby. "Moving in a round table made a big difference," Hamilton enthuses. "It gave us an extra space to decorate that also let us tie the stairway to a corner wall that we dressed with a snowman crafted from wreaths."
Enstad and Hamilton forged similar color-scheme and yuletide-theme connections throughout the home, tying one room to the next using red wired ribbons, folk-art Santas and snowmen, and varying shades and types of greens. "The overall look is a festive fusion," Enstad says of the arrangements. "Although each display has its own personality, they all complement one another."
Stop and stair
Make guests feel right at home by greeting them with a holiday message spelled out with vibrant alphabet bricks. "Be sure you raise some of the bricks on complementary-colored boxes or wrapped packages to draw the eye up the stairs," says Enstad, who filled out the vignette with standing star cutouts and a bannister-hung wreath sporting flashy red bows, baubles and beads. Reds repeat as ribbons on the star-studded garland and as poinsettias positioned above and below the grouping. Large lacey snowflake ornaments bring a dose of glittery texture to the scene.
Bowl them over
"Don't forget the kitchen when making your holiday decorating plans," Enstad advises. "You and your family and guests will be spending lots of time in there, so be sure to make the room extra cheery. Remember to position displays near electrical outlets so you can set them aglow with inexpensive strings of lights. When it comes to Christmas, it's all about the sparkle!"
Enstad built this kitchen island decoration around a treenware dough bowl that she outfitted with a base of artificial snow enhanced by a string of glowing lights, glittering orbs, peppermint ornaments, and a vintage bobbin stuffed with seasonal shapes and accented with a country-check ribbon. A quilted tree skirt featuring Christmas hues provides a homespun anchor for the more-is-more bowl as well as a resting spot for a colorfully clad bag-toting St. Nick. "The jolly Santa Claus figure is a playful addition that brings in another big pop of red, which echoes the scarlet ribbons on the tree," Enstad explains. "Repeating red allowed us to create a cohesively cheerful flow from the front door to back."
Hats off to snowmen
To create a well-balanced arrangement, all it takes are a few small pieces that have a single element in common. "Think of a seasonal symbol or character, and then arrange a grouping around that figure," Hamilton says. In this whimsical vignette, a snow-dusted, sign-toting snowman and a winter-weathered top hat tell a Frosty tale. A petite red stool heightens visual interest, and gleaming glass ornaments and a clear-glass ball holding faux flakes bring the display to life. Since there are only a few lightweight components, this snowfolk exhibit can be relocated in mere minutes. Place it beneath the tree, use it to brighten a bathroom vanity, or center it on a dining room table.
"Decorating doesn't get any easier than this," says Enstad, who plopped a colorful hooked pillow depicting a feline in trouble into a shallow basket filled with greens and a string of old-fashioned silicone bulbs with the look of candle flames. "We loved how the real bulbs picked up on the lights that encircle the cat's neck," she adds. "The pillow-basket decoration works best when the pillow can lean against a wall or a solid surface, so position it on a corner-set table or atop a cupboard, or line up a row on a deep hearth or windowsill." Want another quick trick to try? String shiny red, green and silver jingle bells on a seasonally striped ribbon to create a garland that's music to your ears.
A free-form fir
Want your just desserts this holiday season? Reinvent some of your favorite treat dishes to create a sweet-as-can-be display. "Since the idea was to make this centerpiece look like a Christmas tree, we used only green ornaments, but in varying shades of green," says Hamilton, who created the fake-fir framework from repurposed serving pieces. After laying out a furry fabric remnant reminiscent of fluffy snow, Hamilton set out a glass cake plate that she topped with a footed compote and an antique candy dish. Stacks of striped, solid and crackled ornaments and bling-bringing floral picks fashion a tannenbaum shape further defined by a "tree topper" folk figure carrying his own pine.
Similarly attired young townsfolk figurines provide personality-plus dimension, as does the jolly Santa portrait beaming from its place of honor on the wall. "That's such a fun way to make a room more festive," Enstad says, pointing to the portrait. "Simply substitute a holiday poster or print for a piece of everyday artwork, and you won't have to hammer in a new nail." The stylists completed the vignette with a vintage package wrapped with a vibrant red bow, which opens to reveal a dazzling yuletide diorama.
The design team positioned a round table near the base of the front staircase so they could create a wow-powered exhibit that open-house guests would see as they entered the home. "Round tables are so versatile," Enstad explains. "They can be tucked into corners and moved out as needed."
Enstad and Hamilton played off the table's curves by building displays based on circular shapes. An artificial wreath decked with beaded garland provides a festive foundation for a black wood turntable. The pedestal supports a striking snowman pitcher, which showcases sticks lightly coated with white spray paint and nestled amid a handful of feathery silver picks.
A fanciful winter-dream sign mounted high on the foyer wall crowns a creatively concocted snowman, which the stylists crafted from three grapevine wreaths that they spray painted white and wired together before hanging on a nail. Black felt pieces form the hat, and a plaid fabric remnant converts to a bright scarf. Golden jingle bells dangling from thickly braided red cords amp up the shine.
With the bones in place, Enstad looked for ways to enhance the view. "It needed just a few more things," she says, "so we set out a cute mouse figure and fashioned candleholders from mason jars and candy canes. We also decked the painted branches with tiny, shiny green stars — stellar shapes that we used in almost every grouping. It's always fun to see what you can add to make pretty displays even prettier!"
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